Thursday, December 29, 2011

Review: Moonlit Daydreams

Moonlit Daydreams
Rebecca Carter
Available through Amazon in trade paperback or Kindle e-book, Lulu in paperback, on Smashwords as an e-book, and on Barnes & Noble's website as a Nook e-book.

Good evening constant reader. In a nutshell, if you like off the beaten path, into the darkened woods stories, that are short, to the point and visceral, exposing an interesting mind at work, then this book is for you.

Rebecca Carter has carved out a nice little niche for herself in the story telling world.
She spins five tales of oddness, that seem to begin out of no where, and end up right where she wanted you the reader, to be.

Story first is "Of the Children", a fevre dream of a story, about a scientist and her creation gone horribly wrong.
You see, Dr. Shaver and her science figured out how to make raptors ultra intelligent, and they were used to replace our military. Yes, you read that right. in the dinosaur, not the bird. Then came the outbreak...and chaos as the entire world is affected...and infected...including the raptors. And the raptors are smart enough to know they were used and are coming home to their creator.

Story second is "Hunger". We are the silent observer to Sarah's workaday world of frustration - working customer support is always fun, but there's something not quite right about Sarah. We follow her through a night out, and an incident which results in Sarah getting sick and having to resort to pig's blood and milk to feel better.
An unfortunate tale...where Mike meets Sarah and will wish he never had. Sarah isn't like everyone else - she's a vampire.

Story the third is "Midnight Strolls", where we the reader get to accompany Honna out on her prowls for prey. We have kidnapping and brutality from the female perspective, and it gets quite twisted and nasty. It seems chloroform is a girl's best well as a taser, shackles, knives, and that perennial favorite, duct tape. Oh and did I mention the gas soaked cotton balls down the throat?
I could go on, but you really should read this nasty nice piece of work for yourself.

Story the fourth is "Love", where one man's show of love, true love and caring, is one woman's one way ticket.

Story the fifth is "Special", the tale of one "special" young woman and her painful transformation into a werewolf. Think the transformation scene in the film An American Werewolf in London, times 10. Carter's detail makes you feel precisely what's happening.

Five little gems, short and to the point, but full of good writing. It's like you happened to stop by and pause a moment and look into the lives of these characters at very precise points in time and what points they are.
These are fully realized shorts, don't misunderstand. But if these are the sprouts from the seeds of Carter's imagination, good grief, imagine what the forest would be like!

For more on Rebecca Carter:
Rebecca Carter on Facebook

Friday, December 9, 2011

13 Questions with...Chet Williamson

1. You’re hosting a dinner party. What is the menu, and do you cook it yourself, or do you call a caterer?
I’m a lousy cook, so I’d either ask my wife to prepare the meal, or have it catered. And I have to confess to not being much of a foodie. But if the sky were the limit, I’d probably tailor a menu around one of the menus of The Zodiac Club, a private dining club that was the inspiration for my cannibalistic story in Al Sarrantonio’s anthology, 999, but non-cannibalistic, of course…

2. What is your beverage of choice?

Water lately, but I love craft beers and good wine.

3. Physical book Vs an E-Reader. Your preference and why?

I don’t own an e-reader, and really have no desire for one. If I traveled more, it would be convenient, but I love the feel of a real book in my hands. Also, I don’t feel that I own anything when I buy an e-book anymore than I own something when I buy an MP3 sound file. But a physical CD or a physical book? There you’ve got something!

4. What kinds of books make up your personal library?

Oh man. I have a house filled with books, and though I try to glean, it’s tough. Looking at my shelves here in my office, I see one shelf of books on Shakespeare, Thomas Harris’s novels, the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, another long row of books on & by Lovecraft, a large section on Yeats (I’ve been working on a play about him for ages), a shelf full of Andrew Vachss’s and Joe Lansdale’s novels, a ton of reference books, some Philip Roth, Robert B. Parker, early Fedogan & Bremer books…it just goes on and on. I have literally several hundred boxes in the basement (with two humidifiers running constantly). Right now I’m reading Terrill Lee Lankford’s novels – Lee directed the Christmas With the Dead film I was in this summer, in which I get eaten by zombies.

5. How and when did you catch the writing bug?

I loved to tell stories when I was a kid (the stock boy in my grandfather’s little two-aisle grocery store used to tell me Poe stories in the scary store cellar), but I didn’t start writing seriously until my twenties, and came to it as the result of being an actor. I started writing shows, and when I realized I was writing full-scale stories I graduated to short stories and finally novels. I picked horror because that’s what I’d loved reading ever since I picked up issue # 5 of Famous Monsters of Filmland and those great Ballantine paperback horror anthologies published in the early 60’s.

6. What is your writing routine?

Not nearly as disciplined as it used to be. In the olden times when I worked on clay tablets, I would set myself a page count every day, and not go to bed until I was finished. As I get older, it’s hard to find material that I consider worth working on, so I’m much more slapdash now, and as a result I write less.

7. If you ever encounter writer’s block, what steps do you take to get past it?

I encounter writer’s block nearly every day, primarily a self-doubt that what I’m doing is worthwhile. I just stumble on, hoping that something will appear, and it usually does.

8. Do you have a hidden talent?

I’m a fairly decent classically trained singer, and do a lot of theatre. I’ve been having some voice problems as the result of having screamed too damn hard while being chowed down on by zombies this summer, but I’m hoping that will clear up soon. Might take some extreme measures, but those are the risks of the business.

9. What was your best subject in school?

English, of course. Except for diagramming sentences…

10. As in any entertainment, there are current trends. How much do these “current trends” influence what you write?

Not much. I’ve found that if you try to write according to trends, by the time your work comes out the trend is over.

11. Mac or PC?

PC. I started with a Tandy 1200HD in 1986 and have been PC ever since. The only Apple items I have are my 120-gig iPod and my iPhone.

12. Where do your ideas come from?

God, I wish I knew. I’d make them come more quickly. Usually, though, it’s from something I’ve seen or experienced, so I need to get out and travel more. Occasionally it’s from something I read in the papers or see on the news. There was a very small story in the newspaper just the other day that struck me deeply, and I think I’ll be able to get something out of that.

13 What advice would you pass on to an aspiring author?

Write for yourself, first and foremost. If the work isn’t commercially successful, then at least you’ve enjoyed the process. The markets are more difficult now than they’ve ever been. E-books have changed everything. Along with the positive aspect of making your work more accessible, there’s also the negative aspect that everyone’s work is accessible as well. There’s so much more competition out there for the e-book dollar that it’s ridiculous, and it’s incredibly easy for one writer, no matter how good his work, to become lost amid the mass of work that’s available. Unless you’re a brand name, we’re all part of the long tail, and that amounts to smaller sales and readership, and less money. You have to be more of a publicist than a writer these days, and everyone’s doing the same thing. How to get your head above the waves that are engulfing us all? If I knew, I’d do it. And on that somewhat pessimistic note, I close. Happy writing anyway!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Review: Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday
Chet Williamson
Available through Amazon in hard cover, mass market paperback or Kindle edition & as an e-book or audio book (read by the author), and on Smashwords as an e-book.

A brief word of introduction: Chet Williamson is no stranger to horror fiction. As such he is what I would consider an established author with a readership. He did me the courtesy of speaking to me on Facebook (he and Joe R. Lansdale, to be precise), and through the conversation, it became apparent I needed to read Ash Wednesday ASAP. I ordered it off Amazon and read it in 3 days. 
3 days.
I never read a book in 3 days.
But I did with this one. I read it while waiting in the car, while in the tub, while waiting for something to cook in the kitchen. When I had a spare moment, I was reading.
Get your hands on a copy of Ash Wednesday and see how a horror novel is written.

"Goddamn, Chet." 
I thought this more than once while reading this novel, about a town called Merridale, and the bizarre thing that happens there. 

One night, all the dead of Merridale show up, glowing blue, where they died. If it was crossing the street and getting hit by a car, if it was sitting in the den watching TV, if it was in the hospital - where ever they took their last breath, and in what ever state that was, that's where and how they appear. For no discernible reason. 

How the denizens of the town handle this phenomenon is vast and varied. 
And if you think the dead coming back as zombies is scary, you ain't read nothing yet. No, these dead don't do anything, per se. But the chain reactions they start are quite enough. People lose their faith and their sanity. Some become greedy, some become cowardly. In some, long buried histories come raging to the fore to finally be exposed to the light of day. 

And I quote: "He closed the ten-yard gap then, walking dreamlike to the banquet table to gorge himself on the physical evidence of his guilt. The guilt opened now, like a bloom fully mature, its five blue petals gleaming in the sun..." 
Chet Williamson writes brilliant prose like the above example, turning something odd into one of the most brutal things to happen to a community. 

They don't write them like this very often. 
Mr. Williamson needs to write more like this. A lot.

For more on Chet Williamson:
Chet Williamson
Chet Williamson on Wikipedia
Chet Williamson on Twitter
Chet Williamson on Facebook

Friday, November 18, 2011

13 Questions with...Guido Henkel

1. You’re hosting a dinner party. What is the menu, and do you cook it yourself, or do you call a caterer?
My wife is a phenomenal cook – and I mean, we are seriously talking Iron Chef cooking level here – so she usually cooks herself to treat guests. I know, that you weren’t interested in my wife cooking, but since I don’t cook a whole lot, I thought it is the next best response.

2. What is your beverage of choice?
Usually, nothing but water. I’ve sworn off soda altogether. I do like a beer and a glass of good wine here and there, especially to go with the right food or the right company.

3. Physical book Vs an E-Reader. Your preference and why?
Ever since I got a Kindle abut 3 years ago, I have slowly drifted more and more towards reading eBooks. If find the experience every bit as pleasant and noticed that I am actually reading faster on the Kindle than on paper. It also has changed my reading habits, as I am reading more independent authors than I did ever before. In addition, I like the fact that the eBooks don’t take up any space in the house. Don’t get me wrong, I do like to have a nice hardcover or paperback version of certain books here and there, but do I really need to have every book I read sitting around on a shelf?I still do read a good deal of paperbacks and hardcovers, as they still find their way into my library, though, as I visit bookstores or writers conventions.
4. What kinds of books make up your personal library?
I like to read a lot of historical fiction, so much of my library consists of period books, ranging in various genres. Some are adventures, others mysteries or period thrillers. In addition I do like to read a good contemporary thriller here and there. I used to read a lot of fantasy but for some reason have lost interest in the genre almost entirely in the past few years. Although I write mostly in the horror genre, interestingly enough, I do not read a whole lot of horror. Occasionally, yes, but not excessively so. I am very selective when it comes to horror and read mostly the material that friends of mine write in that genre, because I want to keep up with their work.

5. How and when did you catch the writing bug?
I’ve always had an affinity to the written word and started writing in my late teens. Not in book form, though, but for computer games. I used to write text adventure games for a number of years, which are like interactive stories in which the player controls the flow of the story by typing command sentences like “Turn over the corpse and look under it” into the computer. After that I moved on to writing fiction for computer role playing games — all stuff that is very detailed and intricate – non-linear, as you have to cover countless eventualities depending on the player’s actions.I always wanted to write linear fiction, as in books, where I could control the experience from beginning to end. It was not until about 3 years ago, however, that I finally decided to give it an honest try. “Demon’s Night,” the first of my Jason Dark supernatural mysteries was the result. I had so much fun doing it that I just kept on writing ever since.

6. What is your writing routine?
I wish I had one. I really do. I try to write at least 1,000 words a day , but unfortunately, my life is filled with so many things that sometimes I simply do not find the time or energy to write at all.I also outline a lot. I found that outlining and planning my scenes out in detail helps me stay focussed and pulls me through a project without getting frazzled and sidetracked.

7. If you ever encounter writer’s block, what steps do you take to get past it?
To be honest, I think there is no such thing as writer’s block, per se. It is my firm belief that what most people refer to as writer’s block is really just a result of improper preparation. I noticed that in myself. There were times when I did not know where my story was supposed to go. I had not nailed down a scene completely, and as a result I would keep pushing it ahead of me, avoiding to actually write it. I was afraid to make a decision, to commit to something, anything, and as a result I stopped writing and kept procrastinating for endless periods. This happened to me a few times and I noticed that this kind of “block” always happened for the same reason. I did not know what to write. As soon as I sat down and planned out my stories properly from beginning to end, down to a scene level, I was able to avoid these blocks altogether. This way, there is always something to write. Even if I don’t feel like continuing where I left off, because of my planning, I can easily jump to some other scene that excites me at the time.This kind of ability to write out of order is critical, I think, to keep you going. At least, it is for me.Many writers recommend to watch a movie, do something different, get your mind off. While this might be true when you burn out – which is different than a block in my opinion – I don’t think it is a solution for a block. It is just a different sort of procrastination that won’t get words on the paper.Writing requires discipline and the disciplined writer will sit himself in a chair and write – block or no block. There’s always something to write or edit or revise.Now, I have to be perfectly honest here. Though I am saying of this with all this conviction, I wish I could apply myself to these standards sometimes. I guess sometimes it is just easier to procrastinate. :) 

8. Do you have a hidden talent?
I am not sure I have any hidden talents left. I explored most of them quite openly. I wrote, designed and programmed computer and video games for many years. In that industry I explored many of my skills. I programmed in countless programming languages, down to hexadecimal machine code, I wrote stories for the games, I created artwork and graphics for them, I wrote the music, I acquired business acumen running my own companies, the array is endless. It was a well of experience, really.I am a musician also, I used to play in heavy metals bands and I have written and recorded full orchestral scores.I have a knack for languages – to a degree – and speak German, English, French, Spanish, and understand Italian and some Vietnamese. And I am proficient in Latin – or at least I used to be when I learned it back in high school and college.And now I’m a writer… so I’m not sure what else is left. Perhaps the fact that I don’t discuss politics or religion in public are my real hidden talents.

9. What was your best subject in school?
I majored in English and Math, both my strongest subjects, and interestingly, both have continued to be exceedingly important to me. Math because of all the computer games programming I did over the years, and English because here I am, writing books in English. To put that in perspective, perhaps I should point out that English is not my native language. German is. I moved to the US about 15 years ago.

10. As in any entertainment, there are current trends. How much do these “current trends” influence what you write?
They do not influence me at all. I write what I want to write. Always have. It has always made me an underdog in anything I did. I’ve always created outside the mainstream. My games have always been catering to a core audience. I was never interested in making something that was popular at the time. It has always been more gratifying for me to blaze my own trail. It is very risky and I’ve been flailed with commercial failures throughout my career, but there is something immensely rewarding in doing what you really want to do, as opposed to what others expect you to do. My Jason Dark books are the perfect example for this also. I am writing long fiction in a gothic horror genre and package it in the softbound magazine format of traditional dime novels. I mean, in this market, you can’t get any more exotic and old-school than this. And I’m paying the price for it, clearly. It might have been easier for me to find an audience if I had written contemporary paranormal romances instead and made them into paperback books, selling them for $9.99 apiece.I did not want that. I wanted a print version that costs only $2.99 and that is not possible with current paperback and print-on-demand technologies. I thought it might attract readers, making the stories more accessible, but I’ve been proven wrong all along. Instead of setting my books apart in a good way – as in getting noticed for being unique and different – I find that instead they are almost shunned, because people don’t really seem to know what to make of it. 
11. Mac or PC?
150% Mac. I don’t even let any Microsoft software near my computer. I’m a hardcore Mac-head. I abandoned the PC about 4 or 5 years ago because I got sick and tired of all the problems and the fact that nothing in Windows works. Never looked back once. The Mac has easily tripled my productivity. Better software, cheaper software, more robust software, better hardware, better performance, better responsiveness, better usability. What’s there not to like? I gladly pay a little more upfront for that kind of luxury and peace of mind.

12. Where do your ideas come from?
Anything can really inspire me. Oftentimes I will just look at a painting and a scene will pop into my mind that could make the basis for a story. Sometimes it is music where a line of the lyrics might inspire me and turn into such a picture in my head. At other times it’s a photograph or a movie scene, and sometimes it is just something someone will say and I ask myself, “What if…?”Literally anything can inspire me and draw these kinds of mental images from me that I constantly use as elements in stories or as entire book premises.
13 What advice would you pass on to an aspiring author?
Your writing is never as good as you think, and it is never as bad as you think. All writers that I know have moments were they are in love with their writing, and moments where they feel it is all just a dump of crap. It is the one thing all writers have in common, I believe, so don’t worry if you feel the same way sometimes. Just keep at it, write your heart out, edit and revise, and polish it. If you do that, in the end you will inevitably have a piece of writing that you will be proud of, because you put your mind and heart into it and you worked hard on it. You gave it your best shot, and that is what it is all about.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Review: (Sin)ful

Lucy Grayson
Self-published, available from: Lucy Grayson

Review by Dan Breen

Sin(ful) – Swords, sorcery and… Citroens?

(Sin)ful is an oddment. I was introduced to this book via a friend on Facebook, and thought, why not? Having bought and downloaded this book, my only regret is that I left it so long before reading it.

(Sin)ful is set in a contemporary fantasy Earth. Magic is real and the world as we know it is joined by two extra lands, one the home of the Kiasakis, and the other, home to the Elementals, two extra near human races and hereditary mortal enemies, one a clear warrior race, and the other, more ethereal and mystic, (as you read the book you’ll come to understand them better), and set in a society pretty much parallel with our own.

(Sin)ful follows Animay Wolfheart, an Elemental, and heir to the Shadow estate, and Luicius Dranco, a Kiasaki warrior, two people thrown together by their employer, Tom, a human wizard of “interesting” moral fibre for his own personal gain.
While there feels to be an element of a “coming of age” story about this, the back plot, the political sophistication of the back story, the intelligent use of action and drama devices to create a story arc, (this is the first in a projected series), place it beyond such easy pigeon holing. It’s an intelligent, well crafted first book, and doesn’t feel like the 400 page epic that it is. I also found it difficult to put down, which is never a bad sign.

So who would I recommend this to? If you remember the Shadowrun RPG, if you like Anne McCaffrey, William Gibson, or just something different to the norm and consider yourself too intelligent for the Tw*****t series, then this is for you.

For more on Lucy Grayson:
Lucy Grayson Weekly

Friday, November 4, 2011

13 Questions with...Tim Marquitz

1. You’re hosting a dinner party. What is the menu, and do you cook it yourself, or do you call a caterer?

I would probably cook it myself because I'm cheap. The menu would likely be some variation of spicy chicken with lots of cheese because I'm a white trash cook.

2. What is your beverage of choice?
Coca Cola. The damn stuff is addictive.

3. Physical book Vs an E-Reader. Your preference and why?
I much prefer a physical book, but I love the convenience of my eReader. There's no way to compare being able to store 1,500 plus books on a small device. It allows me to read based on my mood and not throw my back out.

4. What kinds of books make up your personal library?
Horror and dark fantasy in overwhelming amounts. Lots of Stephen King, Clive Barker, Jim Butcher, and Brian Keene.

5. How and when did you catch the writing bug?
I've always liked to write, but I never took it too seriously until around 1995. I started working out some ideas I had and was really disappointed in how bad they were. I carried on intermittently until probably about five years ago when I pulled my head loose and figured out what I was doing.

6. What is your writing routine?
I don't have one. I write when I have time and feel like it. While I push myself to do it regularly, I write when it feels good to do it.

7. If you ever encounter writer’s block, what steps do you take to get past it?
Because I outline my work, any sense of writer's block I might get happens before I even start to write. I just continue to plot and scheme and everything seems to fall into place.

8. Do you have a hidden talent?
Avoiding difficult questions.

9. What was your best subject in school?
English, which probably isn't much of a surprise. I'd say lunch was a close second.

10. As in any entertainment, there are current trends. How much do these “current trends” influence what you write?
Not at all. They influence how I market my work, but the story has to be what it is. I don't write to trends and I don't worry about what's popular beyond the marketing approach.

11. Mac or PC?
Definitely PC.

12. Where do your ideas come from?
The Idea Fairy.

13 What advice would you pass on to an aspiring author?
Practice. Until a writer can overcome their concern about the mechanics of writing, they'll never write to their most creative.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Review: Theater of Vampires, Volume 2 of Jason Dark Ghost Hunter

Theater of Vampires
Volume 2 in the Jason Dark, Ghost Hunter series
Guido Henkel
Available through Jason Dark - Ghost Hunter, Amazon in both print and Kindle editions, and Barnes & Noble in e-book for the Nook

If you like pulp horror in a quick and easy, enjoyable read, then this series is for you.

Jason Dark is a ghost hunter...and a vampire hunter...and a demon hunter...and a hunter of all things supernatural.  He is aided and abetted by his faithful assistant Siu Lin and his housekeeper Lady Wellesley.

Our story begins with the advent of Jason's friend Max.  Their reunion is a happy one, with a pleasant dinner with Jason's assistant Siu Lin in attendance.  Talk is turned to the new play being performed, rumoured to be in the Grand Guignol style, called Theater of Vampires.  Max persuades Jason to attend a performance and that's where our story begins to take off.  Jason suspects there is more than meets the eye to the performers of this harrowing stage show and sets out to investigate.  His suspicions are confirmed when Max is violently, and literally wrenched out of Jason's home by a vampire kidnapping.

Written in a pulp fiction style, there are lurid descriptions of blood letting, pale, red-eyed vampires with preternatural abilities, ambushes, confrontations, captures, rescues, action,'s all here.
The story only runs 61 pages.  I found it entertaining, both for it's subject matter and the style in which it is written.  Some of it seems grand and a tad over the top dramatically speaking, but that's a hall mark of pulp fiction to begin with.  I spent an entertaining evening reading this, enjoying a genre I hadn't previously read too much of.  Pulp writing is a dying art these days to a degree, but Henkel writes with a sure pen, creating the shadowy streets of London in the winter, the dark and mysterious theater and the threatening vampires with ease.  I felt transported to Jason's side, be it as he dined with Max, attended the play, worked in his laboratory, took to the dark street, and entered the theater to engage in a showdown with the vampires.

There's a fair amount of blood in this tale, enough to satisfy the gore hound.  I liked the lab work Jason employed, a nod to the wit of Sherlock Holmes I suspect.  The pacing is sound, and the characters are brought to convincing life.

For a quick, atmospheric tale of the supernatural, this series is a winner.  There are 10 volumes currently available, with Jason taking on demons, witches, ghostly Kinghts Templar, a real doctor Frankenstein, wraiths, curses, and wrathful goddesses, to name but a few of the terrors he meets.

In January of 2011, Henkel was invited by Fangoria magazine to write an exclusive serial novel for their magazine, beginning with issue #302, entitled Food for the Dead.  Quite an honor, indeed.

For more on Guido Henkel;
Jason Dark on Facebook
Jason Dark, Ghost Hunter

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Review: Armageddon Bound : Book One of the Demon Squad series

Armageddon Bound
Book One of the Demon Squad series
Tim Marquitz
Available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble  in paperback and in e format through Damnation Books

Review by Dan Breen

Take equal measures of 50’s detective pulp fiction, a Carl Hiaasen central character, and The Omen, blend carefully then serve chilled with a good Metal soundtrack.
Now throw it away and read this instead.

In Armageddon Bound Tim Marquitz introduces probably one of the most likable anti heroes I’ve come across – Frank Trigg, (or Triggaltheron, depending on how far “south” you come from); Nephew of Lucifer, part human, and the only known character in any book to have turned down the opportunity to become the Anti-Christ.

The back story is that both God and the Devil have disappeared without trace, much to the confusion of their respective sides leaving the various choirs and minions to do what they do best – fight each other in a celestial Cold War taking place on earth. However, in the years since the disappearances of the respective heads, other factions have appeared, crossing the usual Demon/Angel lines, pro and anti Armageddonists, and it’s against these factions, and his estranged Succubi wife, that Frank, Scarlett, (an angel, his cousin), Katon, (Vampire), and Rahim, (mage), find themselves pitched in this rather different and entertaining novel.

The story itself starts straight into the action, but at a pace not to leave the reader behind, and while fast moving, is not too fast as to leave the reader struggling to keep up. The characters themselves feel rounded, fully formed and engaging while the settings are illustrated well enough to give the picture without distracting from the story itself. Thoroughly entertaining with some good humorous, if slightly wrong, moments thrown in, (remember though, he is part demon).

If you’re a fan of Good Omens, any of the Lazlo Woodbine series, (Robert Rankin), or are old enough to remember the “Oh God, you Devil” movies with George Burns, you’ll like this one.

For more on Tim Marquitz:
Tim Marquitz Dark Fantasy Author
Tim Marquitz on Twitter
Tim Marquitz on Facebook

Sunday, October 9, 2011

13 Questions With...Carolyn & Mike Dubisch

Carolyn's Answers

1. You’re hosting a dinner party. What is the menu, and do you cook it yourself, or do you call a caterer?
I hate to cook, but I'm cheap so it's the only thing I do well. Spaghetti.
2. What is your beverage of choice?
I like wine, coffee, and sparkling water, not all at once or mixed together-separately.
3. Physical book Vs an E-Reader. Your preference and why?
Physical books most of the time. I don't have an E-Reader, just a computer, maybe that's why I prefer it.
4. What kinds of books make up your personal library?
Everything from "You are so Undead to me" by Stacey Jay, to "The Joy Luck Club". I read Stephen King, and Gail Carson Levine and of course Harry Potter- I'm always open to new writers. as well. I like fantasy, horror, science fiction, historical fiction, and tons of YA.
5. How and when did you catch the writing bug?
When I was a sophomore in High School my English teacher felt I should be a professional writer, but I never really pursued it until my daughter was born, when I began writing kids books.
6. What is your writing routine?
Unfortunately my schedule is too erratic for a regular routine. I write when I can squeeze it in or have a deadline. It's pretty lame.
7. If you ever encounter writer’s block, what steps do you take to get past it?
I write on my blog usually. That warms me up to writing fiction.
8. Do you have a hidden talent?
Does face painting count?

9. What was your best subject in school?
English and Art.
10. As in any entertainment, there are current trends. How much do these “current trends” influence what you write?
Somewhat. We added some steam punk elements to the original script of "The People That Melt in the Rain". However that was the first time I ever did anything like that.
11. Mac or PC?
Mac-we do a lot of graphics here in our studio.
12. Where do your ideas come from?
Mostly from fortune cookies.
13 What advice would you pass on to an aspiring author?
Just to write and keep a journal. Also joining a crate group can be an extremely valuable experience. There are a lot of groups online, and plenty if you check your local library.

Mike's Answers

1. You’re hosting a dinner party. What is the menu, and do you cook it yourself, or do you call a caterer?
Stir fry shoggoth and shrimp stuffed with chaos- from a caterer of course.

2. What is your beverage of choice?
Sparkling mineral water- a gift from the undergods.

3. Physical book Vs an E-Reader. Your preference and why?
Physical, reading e-books hurts my soul.

4. What kinds of books make up your personal library?
I have an obsession with a certain breed of comic creators and fantasy/surreal artists. I read a lot of fiction but am less attached to keeping a permanent collection of it.

5. How and when did you catch the writing bug?
Around fifth grade I began to be able to envision and then actually execute ideas for comics and stories, so I guess that's when.

6. What is your writing routine?
I let ideas stew in my head till they are nearly solid, then write them down when they tell me they are ready. Then I need absolute silence and concentration to write the prose or script.

7. If you ever encounter writer’s block, what steps do you take to get past it?
Since I don't put pressure on myself to write, I've never found myself blocked- Artist's block I deal with by working- and if I become so paralyzed I cannot move forward on serious art, I go to my doodlebook, take all the pressure off, and doodle carelessly till I rediscover the joy of creativity.

8. Do you have a hidden talent?
I'm a problem solver. I have an ability to focus and solve real world puzzles while others go to pieces.

9. What was your best subject in school?
Art and English, also weight lifting.

10. As in any entertainment, there are current trends. How much do these “current trends” influence what you write?
The character I write that has turned out to have most potential for mass appeal was conceived a bizarre anti-hero I didn't think anyone would understand: My flesh eating ghoul-hero, The Crypt Kid. In this case the publics hunger is for new concepts that kick sand in the face of the old but are still cute and iconic.

11. Mac or PC?
My family has been "mac" since 1987.

12. Where do your ideas come from?
Ideas are gifts. Hard to know where they come from, apparently from a storm of synapses, they feel as if they are just dropped in by an outside source and I'm just happy when they appear- often they just flow out of the tip of my pen and I'm as surprised as anyone else is.

13 What advice would you pass on to an aspiring author?
Read your own work critically and be sure it's your best. Find someone to help you fine tune your work. Do what makes you happy and excited, self publish and build your brand.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Review: The People That Melt in the Rain

The People That Melt in the Rain
Carolyn Watson Dubisch
Mike Dubisch
Available to follow as a web comic:
The People That Melt in the Rain: New Girl In Town
From Amazon as a Kindle book; from Barnes & Noble as a Nook book

Review by Dan Breen

Web comics are a fairly new thing for me. Yes I know the internet has been around forever, (well, mid 90’s anyway), but oddly, following more than just odds and ends has never really appealed to me.
So the boss gives me the link, “Here, you like comics go review…” Or words to that effect, so I wasn’t expecting much.
Boy was I surprised.
The artwork is the first thing that struck me, clear, simple and caught me from the outset. I am visually led, so once the impact of the artwork had subsided I started reading the story itself and just couldn’t stop clicking next.
The comic begins following Laura as she moves from her old home to the rather unusual town of Deluge, where, as the title suggests, people melt in the rain. But there’s more, way more to it than just that, no one seems to leave. Ever. And on top of that, the town seems to be, in a very normal way a repository of all things rum and uncanny.
The web comic itself has been running for a few years now so there’s plenty to read. Might be worth settling down with a large pot of tea, (or coffee as appropriate), switch off your phone and enjoy.
If you liked Spirited Away, (Studio Ghibli animae), Twin Peaks or anything of that ilk, you’ll love this one. 

Issue 0 of The People That Melt in the Rain
Carolyn Watson-Dubisch
Mike Dubisch

Review by Tracey Fleming

When Carolyn first contacted me about reviewing The People That Melt in the Rain, my first impulse was, of course, to say "Yes!", as I started my reading life reading comic books.  She explained it was an ongoing web comic, but could send me issue 0 as a hard copy.  
When it arrived and I got a look at the cover, my first thought was "Oh, this is going to be right up my alley", and I was right.
The story, as Dan outlined above is about the town of Deluge, and Laura, who has just moved to the town.
Issue 0 starts not with Laura, but with Jason, the "Weatherman" who's trying to figure out why the weather is the way it is in Deluge.  Something happened to his sister Jana back in the day (no fair giving it away) and now Jason is determined to get to the bottom of things.
I loved the story. Compelling, giving you enough to engage your attention, but leaving out as much as it reveals, making the reader want more.
The artwork is magnificent.  I wasn't sure the cool palette was going to work, but the colors used are as much a character in the story as Laura or Jason are.  There's also a steampunk vibe, slight, but there.
Great story, great art = great comic.

For more on Carolyn & Mike Dubisch:
The People That Melt in the Rain
The People That Melt in the Rain on Facebook

Sunday, September 18, 2011

13 Questions with...David Warren

1. You’re hosting a dinner party. What is the menu, and do you cook it yourself, or do you call a caterer?
If it were just me, I would have a Tuna Melt sandwich. (My all-time favorite) But since it’s a dinner party, it would consist of shrimp cocktail, filet mignon, side dishes and a variety of salads. And yes, it would most definitely be catered.

2. What is your beverage of choice?My beverage of choice is a nice cold unsweetened iced tea.

3. Physical book Vs an E-Reader. Your preference and why?
I may be old fashioned, but I still prefer the physical book. I can’t wait to hold a copy of Jest, which should be in about a week from now…

4. What kinds of books make up your personal library?
Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child make up a large portion of my library.

5. How and when did you catch the writing bug?
I was nine years old when I started writing little stories on an ancient typewriter my mom had. I was heavy into Franklin W. Dixon’s The Hardy Boys Series back then and so I started with mystery stories. Soon after, I discovered Dean Koontz’s Phantoms, and I have never looked back since when it came to what genre I would forevermore write.

6. What is your writing routine?
I start with a small outline. It may be heavily loaded with ideas or it may just be a cast of characters and what their relationship is with one another. I then start (Usually, not always) with shorthand notes or paragraphs in a journal before finally starting to type the actual story onto the computer.

7. If you ever encounter writer’s block, what steps do you take to get past it?
Writer’s block can be a killer if you let it. It takes self-discipline to not give up and move onto other things. The problem that it creates is that a lot of times, you simply never go back. (Been there, done that) So my advice is…stay at it. Keep going, even when it isn’t fun anymore and it will pay off in the long run.

8. Do you have a hidden talent?
I used to work in Atlantic City as a magician and I did a few years in professional wrestling as well.

9. What was your best subject in school?

10. As in any entertainment, there are current trends. How much do these “current trends” influence what you write?
None whatsoever. I write what I do because I love it. If I think I have a great idea, I’ll write it, regardless if it is popular at the time or ever will be in the future. With that being said, if I am approached by my publisher to tackle a certain genre or storyline because it is the “in thing” right now, I wouldn’t be opposed to it.

11. Mac or PC?
PC…Never owned a Mac.

12. Where do your ideas come from?
Only the Good Lord knows. To be honest, I have written books before based on weird dreams that I have had. But most of the time, regardless of where I am or what I’m doing, I find myself asking “what if” questions. For example, if I’m on vacation up in the mountains, I might ask myself, “What if a really big, scary bear decided to wreak havoc here all of the sudden?” Next time you’re out somewhere and have a minute, ask yourself the “what if” question and see if you can’t come up with a dozen different ideas!

13. What advice would you pass on to an aspiring author?
Never ever give up. I was rejected more times than I care to remember by publishers and agents alike. It just takes perseverance. Lord willing, if you keep at it and don’t get discouraged, it’ll happen. Also, don’t take rejections personally. They don’t know you and although you think you have the manuscript of the year (as I used to think) it will not fit every publisher’s needs. All you can do is write the story, have it professionally edited, (NOT your neighbor who likes to read) and submit to the proper people. Do your homework. If you submit to someone who isn’t interested in your genre, you just wasted their time as well as yours.  

Monday, September 5, 2011

13 Questions with...A.R. Hill

1. You’re hosting a dinner party. What is the menu, and do you cook it yourself, or do you call a caterer?
Well, both the Spouse and I like to cook, so we’ll definitely cook it ourselves. Most likely either o-nabe (Japanese hotpot with meat and vegetables) or sukiyaki (Japanese pan-fried meat and vegetables with sauce). Both of these are cooked at the table, so we chop, arrange everything and make the sauces, and then the guests select what they would like to eat themselves. Boiled rice and homemade miso soup get served on the side with Japanese pickles, and of course green tea and Ramune soda. For dessert, either green tea ice cream or green tea cake. Both sound weird but are delicious – and the last time I served green tea cake, I kid you not, my guests fought over who got to have the last slice.

2. What is your beverage of choice?
Real tea, in all its forms. Though not herbal tea, that’s something I take when I’m sick and it’s not technically tea anyway, it’s an infusion.

3. Physical book Vs an E-Reader. Your preference and why?
Real book. I have trouble staring at computer screens (probably because I do it so much), so a real book is just easier on my eyes. They smell good, too, and look good on a bookshelf when you’re not reading them.

4. What kinds of books make up your personal library?
Horror, fantasy, table-top RPGs and reference books. Lots and lots of reference books. Especially ones on art, mythology and vampires.

5. How and when did you catch the writing bug?
When I was twelve, I wrote a book to impress someone I had a crush on at school. The crush, and the story associated with it, never went anywhere but I found a lasting romance with writing.

6. What is your writing routine?
Me, routine? I try to squeeze as much writing in as I can between my official duties and house chores. I also try to work in some reading every day, keeps me fresh.

7. If you ever encounter writer’s block, what steps do you take to get past it?
Writer’s block has been a personal demon of mine for the last four or five years. The best thing to do is to force yourself to write, as much as you can, even if it’s on an unrelated project. Then when you can’t stand it anymore, go do something else. Then repeat. I paint or draw pictures of my characters to help me think about them. Read a lot too, and don’t give up. It can last a long time and you’ve just got to fight through it. 

8. Do you have a hidden talent?
Performance arts. I can play a few musical instruments and sing, and in the past I’ve been part of a few acting troupes.

9. What was your best subject in school?
Oddly enough, chemistry.

10. As in any entertainment, there are current trends. How much do these “current trends” influence what you write?
Not all that much. I don’t watch TV and I tend to choose my books based on how I’m feeling at the time. I’ve always been sort of a loner, doing my own thing.

11. Mac or PC?
PC. I can use a Mac but I don’t like to, and they’re harder on my wallet. Plus, the Spouse can build and repair PC’s, which saves me a fortune in tech support.

12. Where do your ideas come from?
I am frequently subject to nightmares, so that has a big influence. I also get a lot of inspiration from gaming sessions with friends and sometimes random things I encounter while out and about.

13. What advice would you pass on to an aspiring author?
Write all you can, every single idea that pops into your brain. If you can draw, draw your characters or the scenes you see in your head. I’ve got stuff I made note of when I was eleven that is just now shaping up into an idea for a cool story, so file it all away. Keep going, no matter what anyone says to you. I got told in college by a random student that I was “obviously not a writer”, so you can’t listen to the naysayers. Just keep plugging away and you will start turning out gems.

Review: Jest "It waits no longer..."

David Warren
Available through Amazon for the Kindle,
and from Barnes & Noble for the Nook.
Will be forthcoming in mass market paperback

Good evening constant reader.

If you like a fast paced read, with lively characters, a good plot, some twists and turns, and some blood and guts, then this book is for you.

Our story opens as Edward Carzon II slips away into that good night, leaving Bodlum Castle in East Sussex, England, not to his son, Edward Carzon III, but to his grand daughter, Nicole.  She is advised of this inheritance just as she and her college friends are trying to decide where to take that long talked about but never taken get away.  The trip to England to inspect the castle is all expenses paid and Nicole may bring along as many people as she wishes.  Her alcohol-ridden father is not happy with this situation and is left behind as Nicole and 5 of her friends wing their way to England.
Along for the excursion is Brad, Nicole's friend since forever, her best friend Danielle and her boy friend Al, and Wayne and Alexis.

Our party arrives in England and is escorted to Bodlum Castle where they are met by longtime caretaker Roger Helmsley, maid Beatrice Cummings, and chef Jonathon Carlisle.  Another arrival, Andrew Willis, the late Edward Carzon II's solicitor rounds out the party, there to go over paperwork regarding the inheritance with Nicole.
The young people are taken on a tour of the castle by Roger, who fills in the historical past of the castle, explaining the restoration Nicole's grandfather had begun, intending to open the castle to tourists.  It is during this tour they run into an assortment of wax figures dressed in period costume in various areas of the castle, as part of the tour experience.  One figure they encounter is particularly disturbing; Timothy Skullton, a jester who served in the castle in the late 16th century. But Timothy wasn't just a jester, he was also used to dispatch people not in favor of the owner.  That owner died and the new owner declared Timothy mad and had him imprisoned in the dungeon.  He was thought to have died as his body was never found.  It was assumed he escaped.

Our group begins to settle into the castle, with Nicole having to decide if she wants to become the new owner or not.
Meanwhile, back in the U.S., Nicole's father is plotting to make his way to England...

Then things start to happen...and the body count begins. Warren ratchets up the suspense when the dead bodies start to pile up, people are separated and left alone, people start exploring dark get the idea.

When I got to a certain point in the book, I couldn't stop reading, I had to find out how it was going to end.
I was at such a short page count, I was frantic to find out what happened, and was thinking. "Man, how is this going to possibly come to any kind of end??"
When the ending did come, I literally gasped out loud I was so surprised.
Reading Jest "It waits no longer..." is like riding a roller coaster.  A nice, slow build up the track, lulling you into a false sense of security and then when you come to the top of that track...and start to go over...the hits, they just don't quit coming.
I like that!

Time spent with this horror tale is not time wasted.

For more on David Warren:
David Warren on Facebook

Thursday, September 1, 2011

13 Questions with...Jenn McKinlay

1. You’re hosting a dinner party. What is the menu, and do you cook it yourself, or do you call a caterer?

Definitely, cook it myself. The Hub and I usually cook together (he's in charge of the meat) and we will make London Broil (him) and twice baked potatoes, asparagus, a strawberry spinach salad
and I'll either bake a chocolate cheesecake or cupcakes (any variety but usually a mix of lemon/raspberry and chocolate/chocolate) for dessert.

2. What is your beverage of choice?

Coffee and lots of it.

3. Physical book Vs an E-Reader. Your preference and why?

I don't have an e-reader yet. Being a book junkie, I'm afraid that the ease of downloading to an e-reader will cause me to make imprudent purchases that I would never make if I was buying hard copy or paperback. I can see owning one in the future, but I'm holding off as long as I can. It's painful.

4. What kinds of books make up your personal library?

Everything from the Bard to Manga, with a heavy concentration of mysteries.

5. How and when did you catch the writing bug?

I was 7 or 8 and I found my mom's old portable typewriter in the attic. It was a delicious red color and I loved the sound of the letters when they pounded onto the paper. I wrote newspapers about the family and sold them to mom for 25 cents. Candy Money! Cha-ching!

6. What is your writing routine?

Ten pages per day -- every day -- even holidays and weekends. If you love what you do, it's not a hardship.

7. If you ever encounter writer’s block, what steps do you take to get past it?

Fortunately, it hasn't happened yet. If it did, I would go people watch at an airport. Fascinating places, airports.

8. Do you have a hidden talent?

I can rub my tummy and pat my head at the same time, but it's not pretty. 

9. What was your best subject in school?

Recess. I excelled when my imagination was set free.

10. As in any entertainment, there are current trends. How much do these “current trends” influence what you write?

Because I write contemporary stories, I am always aware of the trends and they do have an impact. The cupcake bakery mystery series came to me when it seemed everyone around me was talking cupcakes. But after the initial idea hits, the writing, characters and plot have to be strong enough to hold their own because trends are generally short lived.

11. Mac or PC?

Currently PC, formerly Mac, but I may be going back to Mac.

12. Where do your ideas come from?

From observing the world around me and trying to wrestle it into being a world I want to live in.

13 What advice would you pass on to an aspiring author?

I absolutely hated hearing the line "a good book will sell" when I was trying to get published and failing spectacularly. Here's the thing -- it's true. When I did sell, it was because I fin
ally wrote a good book. There
is no secret handshake, there are no shortcuts. Write a good book -- your best book -- and it will sell.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Review: A Light Against The Darkness

A Light Against The Darkness
A.R. Hill
Available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble on line.

Good morning constant reader.

If you like a fresh look at the vampire mythos, with lots of action, great characterization, some splatter here, there and everywhere and a captivating plot, then this book is for you.

Our tale starts by introducing us to Oni, a Japanese vampire.  He isn't pleasant in any sense of the word.  We are then introduced to his catch, Oreno, a young girl who obviously doesn't know what she's been transformed into until later.  We flash backward to meet Oreno before her turning and capture, when she was known as Samara Takeshi.
The action brings us to her fateful turning, some other business I won't give away, which in turn sends her out into the world as a vampire, learning from the ground up so to speak.  She settles for a brief time in a dockside bar/brothel where she brings her sword skills and preternatural speed to bear as a bouncer.  After some unfortunate events involving the Yakuza, she moves on to boarding a ship and sets sail for Hawaii, ending up finally in Los Angeles, and settling in Phoenix.
It is her run in with another brothel and her wholesale destruction of the operators that gets the attention of the wrong folks.  You see, this brothel is owned by some of the local vampires...and they are not pleased with the damage done to their business.
Their council convenes and it is decided Samara must be dealt with.
She ends up aligning herself with John Doe and Sir Jakob and then the action really starts.

In the character of Samara, we're shown the abject horror of becoming a vampire, what it can and will ultimately cost you when you lose your humanity, how you can rise above the monster you've become and how you handle the change that's been forced on you.
The council of vampires is many and varied, each with their own agendas and personal politics.  I found there were times I wanted a more extensive side story into all the ins and outs and interrelations going on in the background.
There's lots of blood and guts and gore, enough to satisfy the gorehounds in the audience, and tons of action, explosions, sword fights, gun's all here.

The climax was a shade rushed for all the build up, but was satisfying nonetheless.

A.R. Hill has crafted an original take on the vampire story and I'm hoping the follow up, Dark Side of The Sun will see the light of publication ASAP.

My only complaints with A Light Against The Darkness:
The cover...don't let it put you off.  No, it doesn't even hint at the fact it's a vampire novel, but trust me, the fangs are quite present. It does however, make me think of a metaphysical book rather than a horror one.  Because of this, a casual browser seeing this on the shelf is going to pass a great vampire story right on by.
The second concern, and it's a graphic complaint, not one about the writing, was the excessive use of italics, indicating when we were in the present action and when we were inside a particular character's head.  I would  have preferred section breaks within the chapters, numbered to separate them from one another and set in the regular font.  The italics after a while were tedious to read.

All in all, A. R. Hill has the story-telling skills in spades, and I look forward to more work from this author.

For more on A.R. Hill:
A. R. Hill on Goodreads

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Review: Fleshbags

Gerald Dean Rice
Available through Smashwords,
Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Good afternoon constant reader.
If you like quick and dirty zombie tales, then this book is for you.

Fleshbags romps and stomps it's way through a grueling 6 hour day, during a zombie apocalypse.
The novella unfolds by following several groups of people, caught up in different situations, vying for survival.  We've got a wife and husband, said husband performing his neighborly duty, by checking on their next door neighbor; a child care worker who starts out with one objective that turns to another, a cop, a man trying to collect his child from daycare, a young man in the right place at the wrong time, and a young lady home health care worker.

Something has happened.
What that something is?
Well, what ever it is, turns folks into rather mindless automatons who want to stagger around naked, biting (but not eating - there's a blessing of sorts) other people and/or dousing them with a clear liquid that...well, read it, you'll find out.

It's suspenseful, it's gory, it's gross, and reminds me of the splatterpunk wave that came about in the early mid '90's. Wait til you read the description of one of these things. Ick.

Gerald Dean Rice has crafted an interesting take on the zombie motif, which jumps from character to character, detailing their travails and triumphs.  The action moves quick, the situations are harrowing and gut-churning, and I found myself rooting for the characters, even though I sort of knew it might be a hopeless exercise.

I like it.
I recommend it.

And yes, the title is explained...oh yes, is it explained.

Review: Sprinkle With Murder

Sprinkle With Murder
Jenn McKinlay
Available at Barnes & Noble online,
Amazon, Barnes & Noble brick and mortar stores,
and as an e-book for the Kindle or Nook.

Good evening constant reader.
In a nutshell, if you like a good who did it, with believable characters in believable situations, with a tasty culinary background, then this is the book for you.

Melanie Cooper and her best friend Angie DeLaura are the owners and operators of Fairy Tale Cupcakes, a cupcake bakery in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Business is good and the two young women couldn't be happier.  They are joined in this business venture by Tate Harper, their friend since grade school.

It's Tate's upcoming nuptials that start the cupcake crumbling, when his caustic fashion designer bride to be, Christie Stevens, wants to contract Melanie to create 5 original cupcake flavors for their wedding.
When I say contract, I mean contract, as in, the cupcakes become the bride's property and Melanie may not make them for sale in her shop.  As it turns out, Bridezilla has extended the contract business to her gown designer and photographer.
Understandably, this has all the creative types fuming, yet they are reluctant to take Christie on, as her name can mean bigger and better things to their futures.  Who wants to go on record as turning down her business?

Melanie creates the 5 flavors and they're picked up by Christie's assistants.
The next morning, Melanie has an appointment at the crack of dawn to meet with Christie to see if her creations past muster.  She arrives at Christie's design studio to find it quiet...too quiet...and discovers Christie's dead body, with one of Melanie's cupcakes at hand.

Thus begins Melanie's efforts to clear herself and find out who did Christie in and why.
There are numerous suspects, all with an ax to grind, and some clever hey-I-bet-it's-this-guy moments, that may or may not prove to be true.

Jenn McKinlay deftly weaves a compelling tale, combining realistic dialogue and character actions that were very refreshing.  I hate it when characters don't sound convincing and do dumb things, most especially in a mystery.
Melanie, Angie and Tate form a great triad of friendship that obviously has stood the test of time and is put to the real test with Christie's murder.
Supporting characters are well drawn and come and go as needed, including Melanie's mother and Angie's over-protective brothers.

Have I mentioned the cupcakes?
Oh, the cupcakes!
4 recipes are included at the end of the book that sound divine.

This is a brilliant start to a continuing series.
The second book in the series, Buttercream Bump Off is available now. (And I went out and bought it as soon as I finished Sprinkle), with #3, Death By The Dozen due in October 2011.

For more information on Jenn McKinlay, please go to:
Jenn McKinlay on Facebook
Jenn McKinlay's home page